In the topsy-turvy restaurant biz, amicable turnovers such as those at Sidney Street Café are not always the norm. But two months ago another high-profile St. Louis restaurant managed to pull off that tricky feat when King Louie's chef, Kirk Warner, left after five years manning the restaurant's stoves.
The erstwhile chef was itching for a new venture. "High-end restaurant jobs are more like lifestyles," says Warner, "and I was just ready for a change." The news did not come as a complete shock to Warner's former boss and King Louie's owner, Matt McGuire -- who happens to be Warner's cousin. "I don't expect to get to keep all my good people forever," says McGuire, who replaced Warner with Cary McDowell, whose résumé includes the Crossing, Liluma, and (like Sidney Street's Kevin Nashan) Daniel in New York. "He cooks things that are seemingly simple, like chicken and roasted pork, but he'll spend two days on the stock beforehand," the proprietor says of his new chef.
Last week Warner inked a deal that makes him executive chef of Favor, a New American restaurant set to debut in September on Lindell Boulevard across from the St. Louis Cathedral.
The parting that recently took place at JaBoni's Bistro appears not to have been so sweet. On Valentine's Day, co-owners Jann Brigulio and Bonnie Stevens let the kitchen staff go, from chef Ramon Cuffie on down. Both sides put a positive spin on the situation -- "a difference in management styles; we're very excited about the changes" -- but the pursed-lipped smiles would seem to conceal some singed feelings.
Cuffie is serving up no-reservations-necessary weekend brunches just around the corner at bakery La Dolce Via -- which up until Cuffie's departure had supplied JaBoni's breads and desserts. (The restaurant now prepares desserts in-house; breads come from Breadsmiths.) JaBoni's is banking on 26-year-old upstart Jamey Tochtrop, who comes from a catering background (mainly at local company La Chef), and who has implemented what Brigulio calls a "global bistro" spin on the menu. These days the prawns are Ecuadoran and bathed in a green curry-coconut broth, the Alaskan halibut is paired with Israeli couscous and the $32 beef tenderloin comes from the land Down Under. Whether the fifteen-month-old restaurant will remain the hot spot where women glow and men plunder remains to be seen.